As we conclude the first week of the new year, I have been thinking about the many ways in which leaders lead their teams, their colleagues, and in many instances, their managers.
When we are young, we often believe that leaders are those people higher up the chain than we are, those people who have important-sounding titles, and those people who supervise teams of fellow employees.

Then as we grow, we start noticing that there are some teammates within our own departments or other departments who seem to garner people’s attention, attract people’s admiration and to whom people go for advice – people who do not possess a big title and may not even have any direct reports.
I was thinking of one such young person this week. He joined his current company several years ago knowing very few people. At his first company off-site retreat, he wrote a song about the company and performed it in front of colleagues. People asked: “Who is this guy?”

At company functions, he strived to get to know people and build relationships, especially with colleagues from other departments. He took advantage of opportunities to volunteer, on work-related projects and on volunteering initiatives. He made sure to do a timely, accurate and proficient job on all work assignments.

Over time this young man created a reputation for hard work, good work, integrity, relationship-building and teamwork. Those traits, along with his self-confidence and speaking skills, landed him gigs interviewing author and podcaster Guy Raz of “How I Built This” at the company’s annual meeting and then co-leading a workshop for 1000 colleagues at another annual meeting. This all for a young man who officially supervises nobody.

I thought of this young man I know this week when I came across this anonymous quote on a small piece of paper that I had saved from when I was still working as Assistant Dean for Continuing Legal Education at Georgetown Law Center.

Please reflect on these words carefully:

“Not all of us have power, but we all have influence. That is why we can each be leaders.

The most important forms of leadership come not with position, title or robes of office, not with prestige and power, but with the willingness to work with others to achieve what we cannot do alone::

-to speak

-to listen

-to teach

-to learn

-to treat other people’s views with respect, even if they disagree with us

-to explain patiently and cogently why we believe and do what we do

-to encourage others

-to praise others’ best endeavors and challenge them to do better still

Always choose influence rather than power. It helps change people into people who can change the world.”

There is so much wisdom included in these two sentences.

As we look ahead to this new year of 2024, let’s strive to build our influence for good throughout our work and volunteer organizations. We do not need lots of direct reports or a powerful title to achieve that goal.
We only need the willingness to gradually build up our ability to influence others and then exert that influence.

May you all enjoy a happy, healthy, prosperous and fulfilling new year!

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